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Liard River Hot Springs: Paradise in Remote Northern Canada

Liard River Hot Springs: Paradise in Remote Northern Canada

Sometimes what’s best for our soul is to disconnect from the world and soak in a hot spring. We love natural hot springs and want to share our favorite with you. If you need a place to relax and find yourself, add Liard River Hot Springs to your itinerary. We experienced this remote Canadian paradise while traveling the Alaska Highway. It is a slice of heaven that you won’t want to miss.

Today, we’ll share all you need to know about this thermal oasis that’s good for your aching muscles and your soul. Let’s get started.

Where Is Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park?

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park sits just off the Alaska Highway in far northern British Columbia. This is a popular stop for travelers traveling to and from Alaska from the United States.

Whether planning to stop for a few hours or snag a campsite, this is a must-see attraction along one of the world’s most exciting and beautiful highways. The park and spring is open year-round. Visitors will have to pay the day-use fee, which costs $5 for adults, $3 for children, or $10 for families, and camping is also available.

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Do I Have to Pay to Visit Liard River Hot Springs?

There is a day-use fee of $5 per adult and $3 per child, or $10 per family. If you plan to make multiple trips, you can purchase a $10 annual pass for adults or $20 for families. You must show your passes at the staffed gatehouse. Furthermore, they only accept cash (in Canadian dollars), so plan accordingly.

About Liard River Hot Springs

It’s always good to know a thing or two about a spot before you add it to your itinerary. Luckily, we’ve got the inside scoop on why you should visit this hot spring. Let’s dive in and see what you need to know about Liard River Hot Springs.

liard water color
The waters have an incredible teal color

The Springs

Liard River Hot Springs is the second largest natural hot spring in Canada. A thick population of boreal spruce and other marshy vegetation decorate the surrounding landscapes. A boardwalk guides you from the parking lot and campground to the springs, which are nestled in nature.

Visitors to the park can soak in the Alpha pool, with temperatures ranging from 108 to 126 Fahrenheit. The Alpha pool is divided into an upper and lower tier. The upper tier is closest to the spring and gets hotter the closer you get to the left end of the pool. We couldn’t get within ten feet of the spring, as it was so hot!

A built-up wood deck escorts you to the lower tier with slightly cooler water that flows over a man-made waterfall. This area has a large open area that gradually tapers to a narrow stream at the outlet of the pool. By moving around the pools, everyone can find their optimum temperature for relaxation.

The spring does have a slight sulfur smell. You’ll want to take a shower shortly after as to not smell like sulfur the rest of the day.

tom morton in liard hot springs
Liard Hot Springs became a provincial park in 1957.

History

Although this is a rather remote area, it has had a vibrant history through the years. Many believe Robert Campbell first mentioned the hot springs in 1835. After his exploration, the Liard River became the primary trade route to the Yukon territory. However, the river has some rather intense rapids, leading to people abandoning the route in the 1870s.

Tom Smith, a prospector in the Klondike Gold Rush, came to the area in the 1920s. He built a cabin near the Alpha pool to live with his daughter. However, Tom later drowned in the mighty Liard River, and First Nations people eventually rescued his daughter. They sent her to an Anglican mission near Hay River.

Furthermore, the Alcan Military Highway, also known as the Alaska Highway, is a 1,600-mile road that required 10,000 American Army Engineers and 6,000 civilians to construct. The American Army constructed the first boardwalk and pool facilities, and it became an official provincial park in April 1957.

Conservation

The Liard River Hot Springs Park makes up a part of the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. It is a unique hot spring as the water flows into a complex system of swamps instead of a river or creek. The environment creates the perfect habitat for some unique vegetation to grow and thrive. 

It has more than 250 different types of plant species, and the hot springs allow 14 thermally influenced species to grow. Plants like ostrich ferns, cow parsnip, snakeroot, Lyall’s nettle, and yellow monkey flower all thrive from the hot water.

soaking in natural springs in british columbia canada
Liard offers natural banks and clean water

Wildlife

The park and surrounding area have 104 bird species and 28 mammals. You can frequently see the large population of moose in the area feeding off the aquatic vegetation found in the swamps.

Of the 104 bird species, some of the most common are mallard ducks and Canadian geese. However, shorebirds, gulls, swallows, blackbirds, kingfishers, and nighthawks frequent the area. 

Bring your binoculars with you as you walk the boardwalks along the Alpha pool, and look into the water to spot the tiny lake chub. These fish have a unique ability to survive in warm water.

Things to Do at Liard River Hot Springs

If you’re planning to visit Liard River Hot Springs for a day or two, there are several activities you won’t want to miss.

Soaking

Guests can only swim in the Alpha pool. It has a shallow end perfect for children, and it even has benches. The water can get very hot, so it’s important to take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated. 

Spending too much time in the water can result in fainting or dizzy spells. Additionally, it has no lifeguards on duty, and all visitors must take safety seriously.

Travel Tip: If you love soaking in hot springs, check out these 7 Amazing Hot Springs in Alaska You Need to Visit.

Exploring Liard River Hot Springs | Canada

Camping at Liard Hot Springs

The Liard River Hot Springs Campground has approximately 50 campsites. Campsite fees range from $16 to $26 per night, depending on the season. This is a popular park during summer as travelers cruise up and down the Alaska Highway. 

Services at the campground are limited. There is a non-potable water fill station, restrooms, and garbage disposal. There is no electricity, cell service, WiFi, or dump station, however.

You can make a reservation two months in advance, so plan accordingly if you want to stay as close as possible to the hot springs. However, first-come first-served sites are also available.

Cycling

Cycling is another popular way to explore Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. All bicyclists must wear helmets, and you can’t have e-bikes on any path in the park. 

If you plan to bike, check the Biking in BC Park Guidelines for the most up-to-date rules. Drivers should look out for cyclists exploring the roadways in the area.

Hiking

Due to the fragile nature of this area, all hiking must be done on the boardwalk to protect the swamp.

The Liard River Hot Springs Trail is an easy hike from the parking lot to the actual hot springs, approximately 0.7 miles. The out-and-back stroll along the boardwalk typically takes 15 minutes, but you’ll likely want to build in some more time to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. If you bring your swimsuit, you’ll also want to make time for soaking in the hot springs.

A short walk beyond the spring complex will take you to the Hanging Garden, a waterfall of white tufa with moss and flowers growing all over it.

liard hotsprings in winter
You can visit liard year round

Wildlife Viewing

While hiking along the boardwalk to the hot springs, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. It’s a great opportunity to see the variety of animals that call the park and surrounding area home. We actually encountered a black bear when we visited! However, they have since installed an electric fence to reduce human-wildlife interactions.

As we said earlier, more than 104 bird species and 28 mammals live within the park. If you want to spot a moose, they frequent this area in the summer to snack on the swamps’ various aquatic vegetation.

Picnicking

Visitors can use the picnic areas and day-use portion of Liard River Hot Springs Park. Enjoy a meal in a beautiful setting in the park. Visitors must clean up after themselves and dispose of all trash. Don’t feed wildlife, no matter how cute they appear. And be aware that bears frequent this area. Always observe bear-safe practices when recreating.

We opted to buy day passes and picnic in the parking lot for the day in our camper. We visited the springs twice with lunch in between, then continued on. However, camping overnight would probably be our choice the next time we visit.

boardwalk to liard hot springs
The hike along the boardwalk to Liard Hot Springs is 0.7 miles.

What Is the Hot Springs Complex?

The hot springs complex in Liard River Hot Springs comprises six thermal pools and two warm-water marshes. The only pool available for swimming is the Alpha Pool, which has been developed into a public pool open year-round. The Alpha Pool typically attracts visitors to stop at the hot springs.

At the natural pool, changing rooms and composting toilets are available for guest to use.

Let Relaxation Seep Into Your Body at Canada’s Second-Largest Hot Spring

A trip to Liard River Hot Springs might be just what you need. Take the time to disconnect from the outside world and soak your tired and aching muscles. Then look out for some wildlife and let the natural landscapes relax you. If you let nature work its magic, you’ll leave Liard River Hot Springs feeling refreshed.

While you can camp at Liard River Hot Springs, you may prefer to find a boondocking spot nearby. If so, these Tips for Boondocking in Alaska & Canada can help you snag a great spot.

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
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Larry G

Thursday 24th of November 2022

My wife and I visited the hot springs in June as part of our 3 month trip from Wisconsin to Alaska. It was our first time visiting a hot spring area and we had a great time.

John S.

Thursday 24th of November 2022

Wow, you certainly did your homework for this post. Well done. I've been the Yukon many times but did not know about the 28 mammals in the park.

The Liard River Hot Springs are one of only three 'you should really stop and see' places I suggest to all people travelling to Alaska. And it is the one that most generates the most 'thank you for the suggestion' emails later on.

Okay, today's post brings up another question. It's been long enough: when are you going to do another North To Alaska series?

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